Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., makes his way a news conference at the Senate swamp to speak about his agenda for the country, April 30, 2015.
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Bernie Sanders presses Hillary Clinton on trade

Updated

Why it makes sense for Jeb to compete in Iowa … Answer: You might be able to win it with slightly more than 20% … Sanders pushes Hillary to make up her mind on trade agreement … Rubio: “It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president” … Paul: “I think when Hussein was toppled, we got chaos” … Walker defends George W. Bush on Iraq … Mixed news in the campaign against ISIS … White House to limit military equipment to police … Patriot Act on life support … And Hillary is in Iowa, while Christie talks foreign policy in New Hampshire.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann.

FIRST THOUGHTS.

*** Why it makes sense forJeb to compete in Iowa: It was another busy weekend in the 2016 presidential race – another GOP cattle call in Iowa, more Iraq questions, Bernie Sanders pressing Hillary Clinton on trade. But here was maybe the weekend’s most significant news: Jeb Bush vowed to “campaign hard” in Iowa. “I’m going to campaign hard here,” Bush said at a press conference in Iowa City, per NBC’s Perry Bacon. “It’s my intention to win. Period. I’m a competitive person, my hope is to win any place where I’m competing.” Bush’s statement came after his announcement that he would skip August’s Iowa straw poll, and also after a Buzzfeed report suggesting he might skip Iowa altogether. But as we wrote last week, history has proved that serious candidates can’t afford to skip it – because it’s a general-election battleground state. Maybe more importantly, in a big and well-financed field, it’s possible you could win the Iowa caucuses by getting just ONE-FIFTH of the vote. Here are the past winning percentages for GOP presidential candidates in Iowa:

1980: George H.W. Bush 31.6%

1988: Bob Dole 37.4%

1996: Dole 26%

2000: George W. Bush 41%

2008: Mike Huckabee 34.4%

2012: Rick Santorum 24.6%

It’s more than possible, in 2016, that the winning percentage could be lower than Santorum’s 24.6%. And if money isn’t an issue for Jeb, why not compete?

*** Sanders pushes Hillary to make up her mind on trade agreement: After all of the debate on the topic, most politicians have made up their minds on the merits of the free-trade agreement that the Obama administration wants to reach with Asian countries – with one big exception: Hillary Clinton. And yesterday, Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders pressed her to make up her mind. ‘You can’t be on the fence on this one. You are either for it or you’re against it,’ Mr. Sanders said, referring to Mrs. Clinton during an interview on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’” per the Washington Times. “‘No fence-sitting on this one,’ he declared.”

*** Rubio: “It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president”: Any day the Republican presidential field is parrying questions on the 2003 Iraq war isn’t a good day for the GOP and its candidates. The latest example: Marco Rubio. After Jeb Bush’s rough week on the subject, Rubio faced tough questions from Fox’s Chris Wallace. “It was not a mistake for the president to go into Iraq based on the information he was provided as president,” Rubio answered. “Today, we know of their – if we – if the president had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time, you still would have had to deal with Saddam Hussein. But the process would have been different. I doubt very seriously that the president would have gotten, for example, congressional approval to move forward with an invasion had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction.” (Liberals like Paul Krugman counter that Iraq “wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war.”)  

*** Paul: “I think when Hussein was toppled, we got chaos”: Iraq also was a subject that dominated Rand Paul’s interview on “Meet the Press.” Paul said: “Is it a good idea to topple secular dictators? And what happens when we do? I think when Hussein was toppled, we got chaos. We still have chaos in– in Iraq. I think it emboldened Iran. I think– we now have the rise of radical Islam in Iraq as well. But I think the same question, to be fair, ought to be asked of Hillary Clinton, if she ever takes questions. They should ask her, ‘Was it a good idea to invade Libya? Did that make us less safe?’” It was interesting how Paul used the question to effectively attack Hillary. Maybe more importantly, this issue is MUCH MORE comfortable ground for Paul. Since the rise of ISIS, he’s been tying himself into knots on foreign policy. But on this issue, he’s much more consistent.

*** Walker defends George W. Bush on Iraq: Scott Walker, meanwhile, used his Sunday show appearance on CBS to defend George W. Bush. “I did stand up and defend the president, President Bush, that is, saying, I think any president, regardless of party, probably would have made a similar decision to what President Bush did at the time with the information that he had available.” (One person who was on the record AGAINST that decision is the current occupant of the White House.) More Walker:  “Remember, even Secretary of State, then Senator Clinton voted for measures supporting the Iraq War. I think it was a failure in many cases of the intelligence that was given to the president and to the Congress at the time. Knowing what we know now, I think it’s safe for many of us, myself included, to say we probably wouldn’t have taken that tack.”

*** Mixed news in the campaign against ISIS: Speaking of Iraq, the weekend brought mixed news on the campaign against ISIS in the region. First: “U.S. Special Operations Forces killed a senior leader of ISIS overnight Friday during a rare and risky ground raid in Syria and freed a young woman who was enslaved in his compound, the White House announced Saturday.” Second: “Islamic State militants likely killed up to 500 people — both Iraqi civilians and soldiers — and forced 8,000 to flee from their homes as they captured the city of Ramadi, a provincial official said Monday, while the government-backed Shiite militias vowed to mount a counter-offensive and reclaim the Anbar provincial capital.”

*** White House to limit military equipment to police: The White House’s news today is that it will limit military equipment for police. Politico: “Bayonets, weaponized vehicles and grenade launchers are no longer available to local police, following a report from a presidential task force on the militarization of law enforcement released Monday. And if local cops want riot gear and other types of armored vehicles, they’re going to have to meet many new standards for training and data collection.”

*** Patriot Act on life support: That’s the headline from The Hill, which notes that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a bit of a rough spot. A stalemate in the Senate would leave the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) without powers they have used to track terrorists for years, say supporters of the Patriot Act. Without action by the end of the month, key provisions of the Patriot Act will expire, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argues would put the United States at a pre September 11, 2001-footing. Yet McConnell has no definite path to extend those provisions. He and other hawkish senators are pressing for an extension of the key Patriot Act measures, but they are opposed by other senators, the White House and a majority of House lawmakers in both parties.” Rand Paul, in Philadelphia, is holding a roundtable discussion on the subject. On “Meet” yesterday, Paul didn’t commit to filibustering the Patriot Act.

*** On the trail today: Hillary Clinton is in Mason City, Iowa… Chris Christie delivers a foreign-policy speech in New Hampshire (American exceptionalism isn’t a punchline – it’s a set of principles,” he is expected to say.)… And Jeb Bush delivers remarks at a grassroots fundraising event in Miami.

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OBAMA AGENDA: ISIS captures Ramadi

Breaking overnight: “Islamic State militants likely killed up to 500 people — both Iraqi civilians and soldiers — and forced 8,000 to flee from their homes as they captured the city of Ramadi, a provincial official said Monday, while the government-backed Shiite militias vowed to mount a counter-offensive and reclaim the Anbar provincial capital.”

John Kerry, on the takeover: “”I am convinced that as the forces are redeployed and as the days flow in the weeks ahead that’s going to change, as overall (they) have been driven back … I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed.”

Happening today: “The federal government will no longer provide heavy military equipment like tanks and grenade launchers to local cops following weeks of backlash against officers who confronted protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in armored vehicles and camouflage last year, President Barack Obama will announce Monday,” NBC News writes. “And if they want other, less-imposing military equipment, local law enforcement agencies will have to submit to stringent federal oversight and restrictions, according to guidelines Obama will outline during a visit to discuss police reform in Camden, New Jersey, for years one of the most dangerous cities in America.”

If you missed Sunday’s Meet the Press, here’s everything you need to know in less than two minutes.

CONGRESS: Congress waves white flag to authorize campaign against ISIS?

“A move to write new war powers to authorize the Obama administration’s 9-month-old battle against Islamic State militants has stalled in Congress. It might even be dead,” writes the AP.

POLITICO: “Top House Republicans believe the business community is blowing its chance to clinch a trade deal.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Jeb on gay marriage, reforming the VA

The New York Times has a helpful interactive showing connections between past and present campaigns.

“With striking speed, the 2016 contenders are exploiting loopholes and regulatory gray areas to transform the way presidential campaigns are organized and paid for,” writes the New York Times.

BUSH: He says it’s “hard to fathom” a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

In a new post on Medium, Jeb Bush writes “Why We Must Reform the VA.” MORE: “The VA bureaucracy has been reluctant to change and slow to implement reforms that passed in rare bipartisan fashion in 2014 that would bring more veterans choice and increased accountability to the process.”

Perry Bacon Jr. writes from Iowa that Bush is planning to “campaign hard” in the caucus state.

CLINTON: The Washington Post reports on her leftward tack: “Her approach — outlined in interviews with aides and advisers — is a bet that social and demographic shifts mean that no left-leaning position Clinton takes now would be likely to hurt her in making her case to moderate and independent voters in the general election next year.”

Writes the Wall Street Journal: “Labor unions are fighting hard to defeat legislation that would authorize sped-up consideration of a trade agreement being negotiated with 11 Pacific Rim nations. However, they are giving Mrs. Clinton the kind of breathing room they aren’t affording congressional Democrats or even the president.”

From Friday night: The Clintons have made more than $25 million from speaking engagements since January 2014.

KASICH: CNN: “A source close to John Kasich said Sunday that the Ohio governor is “very likely” to run for president, but cautioned there would be nothing definitive for at least a few weeks.”

JINDAL: The Washington Examiner looks at whether Bobby Jindal can make a second first impression.

RUBIO: He said Sunday that the Iraq invasion was “not a mistake” based on the intelligence available at the time but struggled to give clear answers about what he believes about the war now.

PAUL: He won’t commit to a filibuster of the Patriot Act extension.

WALKER: NBC’s Bacon also writes that some influential GOP activists in Iowa aren’t committing to Scott Walker’s candidacy yet as they kick the tires of some of his socially conservative rivals’ campaigns.”

NBC News’ Mark Murray contributed reporting.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush

Bernie Sanders presses Hillary Clinton on trade

Updated